Alex Block over at the City Block blog writes about Governing transit: the regulated public utility.
The MBTA is struggling, but they’re not the only transit authority facing both near and long-term challenges. The MTA in New York is trying to find the funds for its capital plan; WMATA is facing systemic budget deficits while trying to restorerider confidence in the system.
For-profit corporations such as airlines aren’t the right answer to govern transit in an American context. So, what kind of structure could work?
Writing at Citylab, David Levinson made the case for structuring American transit operations as regulated public utilities, able to pull the best elements of private sector management and pair them with the fundamentally public purpose required for urban mass transit.
David cites seven key elements of this model:
- Competitive tendering for services
- The ability to raise fares (with regulatory approval)
- Using a smartcard as a common platform for fare payment
- Specific contracts with local governments to operate subsidized service
- Ability to recapture land value through land ownership and real estate development
- Access to private capital markets
- Local governance, funding, and decision-making
These elements aren’t substantively different from the elements of German public transport governance reforms outlined by Ralph Buehler and John Pucher: competitive tendering for many services, increased fares, investments in technology to improve capacity, efficiency, and revenue. Public regulation oversees these efforts to operate the core business more efficiently.